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Gemma Rama-Banaag, a chief nursing officer at Paradise Valley Hospital, hold a photo of her late husband Chester Banaag while he was in dental school. Banaag died of COVID-19 complications on December 2020. / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

In the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, Filipinos in San Diego were among the hardest-hit nationalities, but that impact wasn’t always clear, because case and death reporting grouped them among Asian Americans as a whole, rather than as a distinct group.

But Voice of San Diego’s exclusive analysis of the 4,045 death certificates from the first year of the pandemic has quantified how the region’s Filipino community shouldered the burden of the virus in the year before a vaccine was made widely available.

Filipinos represented the third largest group of deaths among all nationalities in the county, the death certificate analysis shows, as Maya Srikrishnan reports in the newest installment of our series, Year One: COVID-19’s Death Toll. And Filipinos represented 7 percent of the county’s COVID-related deaths in the pandemic’s first year, while they represent 6.5 percent of the county’s population.

But that comparison itself understates the disparity, according to a public health professional. Dr. Maria Rosario Araneta, a professor of family medicine and public health at UC San Diego School of Medicine, argued that looking at deaths per 100,000 people better reflects the effects the virus had on smaller populations, like Filipinos. 

The Filipino mortality rate was 120 deaths per 100,000 people. That’s lower than the Latino mortality rate of 170 deaths per 100,000 people, but far higher than the While mortality rate of 38 deaths per 100,000 people.

Click here to read Srikrishnan’s story on the hidden toll on San Diego’s Filipino community.

And if you haven’t been following along, click here to read the rest of the project, Year One: Covid 19’s Death Toll.

Also: What We Learned This … Fortnight

You may remember our What We Learned This Week newsletter. Well, it is back as an every other week project from engagement editor Megan Wood, our engagement editor.

This week, Wood provides some background on how we got those records. And she rounded up some of your comments on the availability of public restrooms in San Diego (Catherine T says no “San Diego has a severe shortage”) and whether we should build a Grand Central transit station downtown (Hunter says “I am glad the focus on the NAVWAR site is being reconsidered.”)

Click here to read the new What We Learned. And you can sign up for any of our newsletters here.

About those bathrooms: The U-T Editorial Board criticized Mayor Todd Gloria for his apparent lack of urgency on the question of public access to restrooms. The editorial pivots off our story last week and also has some news: The mayor promises more action. The editorial said the mayor’s office promised that, soon, 100 percent of people would have access to a restroom downtown within a five-minute walk.

Politics Report: A Bad Friday for Midway and Mileage Tax

City politics — especially those focused on urban development — got a shake up last week when a judge halted the city’s attempt to revitalize the Midway area, Mayor Todd Gloria came out against a plan to charge drivers for every mile they drive and the focus of building a massive transit hub for the region shifted from the Navy’s NAVWAR property to one downtown.

This weekend’s installment of the Politics Report got into all of those issues, and what will happen next now that things have been so disrupted. 

And, it lays out why last week’s deadline for city employees to get vaccinated wasn’t exactly a deadline. In short, it could be months before anyone who refuses to get vaccinated is forced out of their job.

Click here to read the Politics Report (if you’re a member … to become one and help us reach our year-end fundraising goal, donate here.)

Elsewhere in the empire… U-T columnist Michael Smolens writes that former House speaker Newt Gingrich, who was in town last week, set the tone for today’s politics decades ago by elevating the culture war. 

In Other News

  • The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sided with the San Diego Unified School District when it denied a request for an emergency end to the district’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for students and staff, as FOX 5 reported Saturday.
  • The region’s various political jurisdictions have been grappling with the once-a-decade redistricting process all fall, but there hasn’t been much word about how it was shaping up over at the San Diego Unified School District. The Union-Tribune reports that the district’s redistricting committee is moving forward with a map that would shift University City and Scripps Ranch into new sub-districts, in an attempt to create more sub-districts with better representation of people of color.
  • The Biden administration announced last week it would re-start the Trump-era Remain in Mexico program, in which asylum seekers live in Mexico while their cases are adjudicated, and Tijuana Mayor Montserrat Caballero said her city is not prepared for the effect it will have on an area already dealing with a migrant crisis, as KPBS reports.
  • A week after Thanksgiving, San Diego County reported its largest total of new COVID-19 cases since Sept. 10, City News Service reports.
  • King tides hit San Diego’s coasts and waterways this weekend, a preview of some of the effects rising sea levels could have on the region, as NBC 7 reported.
  • The new trolley extension from Old Town to UTC won’t reduce congestion on I-5, but it will offer a transportation opportunity that will facilitate responsible growth for the region without reducing quality of life, the Union-Tribune reports.
  • SDSU’s football team will play University of Texas San Antonio in the Frisco Bowl, after it was blown out in the Mountain West Conference championship game this weekend, as NBC 7 San Diego reports.
  • The Holiday Bowl, meanwhile, will pit UCLA against NC State University on Dec. 28, in the first football game to be played at Petco Park, as 10 News reports.

Today’s Morning Report was written by Andrew Keatts, and edited by Scott Lewis.

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